SDG&E Renews Air-Crane Support For Regional Firefighters

City, County Officials and Fire Agencies Join Utility to Announce Cooperative Firefighting Agreement

Sep 5, 2012

SAN DIEGO, Sept. 5, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) today announced it has renewed agreements with the County and City of San Diego and firefighting agencies to continue to make a heavy-lift air-crane available to support fire suppression efforts this fire season.  An Erickson Air-Crane helitanker, the "Sun Bird," was used by SDG&E during construction of the Sunrise Powerlink.  Now that the transmission line construction is complete, the aircraft will be on standby and dispatched for firefighting assistance as needed.    

"We've seen the capability of this amazing aircraft in attacking fast-moving fires in remote parts of our county in recent years and we're pleased to have the Sun Bird available to help protect our communities should we face another major wildfire," said Michael R. Niggli, SDG&E's president and chief operating officer.  "This is just one element in our ongoing commitment to work collaboratively with local officials and fire agencies on enhancing our overall fire readiness."

"Having a heavy-lift helicopter available again during this fire season enhances the County's firefighting capability immeasurably," said Chairman Ron Roberts of the San County Board of Supervisors.  "We appreciate and applaud SDG&E for again stepping up to support the county's fire preparedness efforts."

The air tanker again will be equipped with firefighting capabilities, with the capacity to carry and drop up to 2,500 gallons of water on a fire.  In comparison, the largest helicopter in San Diego now has the capacity to carry only 375 gallons.

SDG&E has renewed two cooperative agreements that establish protocols for the use of the air-crane during critical fire emergencies – similar to those that have been in place for the last two years.  The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between SDG&E and the City of San Diego establishes that the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department will be the lead agency that would dispatch the Sun Bird to a wildfire upon request.

"It is great news that SDG&E's air tanker will be available again this fall," said Chief Javier Mainar of the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department.  "The carrying capacity of the aircraft, which can make pinpoint water drops on the wildfires, is a major game-changer because it allows us to attack the fire early and hard."

The pilots and mechanics, which will be provided by Erickson Air-Crane, are trained to maneuver this type of helicopter for both utility construction and precision water-dropping to target wild-land fires.  If the helitanker is not needed for fire-fighting, it could be used for electrical transmission work.

A second MOU between SDG&E and the County of San Diego establishes a $300,000 operating budget for fire season, with SDG&E covering the cost to operate the helicopter during the first two hours of any new fire and the County of San Diego covering the second two hours. 

SDG&E is a regulated public utility that provides safe and reliable energy service to 3.4 million consumers through 1.4 million electric meters and more than 840,000 natural gas meters in San Diego and southern Orange counties.  The utility's area spans 4,100 square miles.  SDG&E is committed to creating ways to help our customers save energy and money every day.  SDG&E is a subsidiary of Sempra Energy (NYSE: SRE), a Fortune 500 energy services holding company based in San Diego.

For more on the Sun Bird, please visit our photo and video page.


SOURCE San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E)

For further information: Stephanie Donovan, San Diego Gas & Electric, 1-877-866-2066, Twitter: @sdge